For the first time since 2007, the Cleveland Indians have punched their ticket to the ALDS. That was accomplished by clinching the AL Central title. Now they’ll set forth on a mission to end two other notable postseason droughts.
First, they’ll look to reach their first World Series since 1997, when they fell in seven dramatic games to the then Florida Marlins. If they get there, they’ll be looking to win their first World Series championship since 1948, when Bob Feller and company toppled the Boston Braves in six games.
Thanks to a slew of injuries and the loaded teams they’ll have to contend with, the Indians battle figures to be uphill. But that’s been true all season, and it hasn’t stopped them yet.
Led by their experienced manager Terry Francona and a solid core that includes Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor, there are still plenty of reasons to believe they’ll not only compete, but defeat those who block their path.
We’re here now to give you those reasons, while boosting the hope of Indians fans everywhere.
Strong leadership never hurts in the postseason. The Indians certainly have that with manager Terry Francona. As a dugout general with World Series championship rings in Boston, he’s been down this road before and he’s seen how the game changes in the postseason. It’s still baseball, but it’s baseball with less margin for error, and more sense of urgency. That adds pressure to every decision he makes, but his track record should give the team confidence he’ll make the right decisions.
The Indians haven’t dealt with the sheer volume of injuries that the Los Angeles Dodgers or New York Mets have, but they’ve been hit extremely hard at the top of the roster. That includes dynamic center fielder Michael Brantley, whose entire season was wrecked by shoulder issues. They’ve also been without starting catcher Yan Gomes for most of the season, which is never easy to overcome. Now each of their top three pitchers are ailing, with Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar perhaps lost for the postseason. Corey Kluber’s at least hopeful to be ready during the ALDS.
Obviously, these injuries have hindered and will continue to hinder Cleveland’s chances. At the same time, they remind us this has been a resilient team all season that won’t quit even as the odds build against them. If they keep blocking out the pain and playing the game, they can still go far.
ANDREW MILLER IS A WEAPON
Adding Miller to the bullpen at the trade deadline was a huge move. Being willing to make him a weapon, rather than strictly a closer, could be a game changer. Miller has accepted the role too. He’s pitching anywhere from the sixth to the ninth inning in Cleveland, which has helped Terry Francona bridge some gaps. Miller is a tough matchup for everybody, and he’s the ultimate x-factor in these playoffs.
THE ROLE PLAYERS
It’s one thing to have star players, which the Indians have several. To succeed now though, a team needs role players it can rely on. Between Rajai Davis, Coco Crisp, Tyler Naquin and Brandon Guyer, they have plenty of those. Then there’s Jose Ramirez, who might be considered a role player but has shined all season. All he’s done is hit .312/.363/.465 with 11 homers, a whopping 46 doubles, 76 RBIs and 22 steals. He’s a versatile offensive contributor and he’s even more so on defense, where he’s capable of playing everywhere on the infield and outfield. He’s another excellent weapon.
PARTY AT NAPOLI’S
This isn’t a baseball reason, but it sure seems like the teams having the most fun tend to do pretty well in October. That actually can’t be proven in any way, but the positive clubhouse vibe set by veterans like Mike Napoli, Jason Kipnis and others certainly can’t hurt. That’s also not to say the other teams aren’t having fun either. The entire Cubs season has felt like a party to some degree. There’s just something about the Indians though that makes them easy to rally around.
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